Sokoke Scops Owl
Dakatcha Woodland is an important area for fauna and flora lying c.20km due north of Arabuko-Sokoke across the Sabaki River. Many conservation organizations have taken part in educating the communities about the importance of forests and how to conserve their heritage in their areas.
A private Italian business came through the Council of Malindi and persuaded the members of the Malindi Council and other stakeholders to propose the area to be taken by the business to plant Jatropha for biofuel. Formally, they proposed the area from Baricho to Adu to be a Jatropha plantation – an area of 50,000ha, but the business was allowed to start with only 10,000 hectares for just a trial and thereafter see what they would do.
Dakatcha Woodland is on the north-western side of the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest approximately 20 km directly and 80 km in a car as one must go around the river at Sabaki Bridge. The woodland has many patches of Cynometra, Brachystegia and other bushes. This is important because we get Clarke’s Weaver in the Brachystegia trees and Sokoke Scops Owls in the Cynometra trees and other vegetation.
Dakatcha Woodland is also a Government Crown Land. The area has many households and elder’s sub-divisions in it, but it has not been officially demarcated by the Ministry of Lands and Settlement. The Department of Lands have demarcated the area in the eastern part of Marafa, a few kilometres from Marafa town.
Therefore, before the land department reaches the habitats concerned, I would be very interested to go there and track the area so that the fauna and flora could at least have a place to stay and also that the area would be recognized as a forest reserve.
I am therefore inviting any interested individual or conservation organization who is willing to donate to support me to go to the Dakatcha Woodlands in order to carry out surveys as to what birds and trees can be found there.
The forest destruction in the Nature Reserve has come high, especially in the Cynomentra habitat, cutting down the Brachylaena trees for carvings and a lot of different sized snares for different animals.
Poachers have gone to the reserve and set up many camps. They change camps as they run out of trees, and now that the Brachylaena trees are almost finished, they have moved to the mixed forest to cut the Mtangai trees.
Many of the animals in the Nature Reserve – elephants, buffalos, sunis and duikers are now scared of being disturbed by humans, which have forced elephants to stay close to the Arabuko pool for almost a year.
The current Forester at Gede Station has set up routine patrols inside the Reserve with his Forest Guards, aiming to reduce the destruction from human activity. I have been with him and his Guards several times and on the last trip, we discovered two snares, one still holding a rotten Suni carcass. We also came across an old camp where the poachers had stayed for approximately 6 months. We followed the road to Nyari and stopped at the other vegetation where we entered the Reserve.
small mammal trap in Arabuko-Sokoke
I have worked at Arabuko-Sokoke Forest for about 37 years and this Forester is the only officer I have met who really loves his job. I am really proud of him.
It was a little while back now that this happened as we’ve been having difficulty getting information to Colin who’s got the internet access for posting blogs, but I wanted to tell you about one of our typical surveys we do in the forest. It was one of our regular surveys in the Arabuko Sokoke forest; actually it was very cold that morning as we drove our motorbike to our designated transect. Our target was doing a common bird point count survey for the first two and a half of the morning hours and then doing forest disturbances as it was to be hot for the birds.
Albert Baya, an A Rocha Kenya Field technician, who has been with me for almost 14 years doing the research and monitoring of the Arabuko-Sokoke forest and the surrounding, stopped counting the birds and pointed out some cut stems which were almost 2 metres from the transect, trying to look more further away, it was bad to see the most vulnerable trees were cut.
In a distance of 5 km we were able to count 46 cut stems, for wood and carving, 4 active campsites and 2 old
camps which we thought they moved two or three months ago.
Whilst our forest is being managed by an active Forest Management Team, we are actually frustrated to see all these activities still happening.
We have several vulnerable and endangered bird, plant, butterfly, lizard species in the forest, but on the day of this survey we saw Clarke’s Weavers about 25 in one group of which we used to see 50+, and we were not able to see any male actively feeding on a Brachystegia tree. The Clarke’s Weaver breeding ground is not yet known and now the feeding grounds are being destroyed, we need to have a support to help stop this distraction otherwise we will lose our heritage. The picture here is one that was taken by Steve Garvie who is a birder and photographer who I took into the forest last year to see the specialities. These are the best photos I have seen of Clarke’s Weaver and we like to say “asante sana” to Steve for letting us use them.